It’s 1996. Back then, Makindye’s back roads were dirt lines of bright red clay easily bestirred by the footstep.
And as dust was literally kicked up by one’s walking the line, a mournful silence fell upon the road’s surroundings.
At both sides of the road stood a muted riot of homesteads which rendered a portraiture of waking solace to a Kampala evening.
As one looked closer, lingering lights pierced the darkness with fiery fanfare.
Several people moved briskly about---shuffling, frantic, random, ebbing, flowing, searching---doing what they must at such a time.
I turned towards a solitary path.
Its emptiness and silence were a chorus of blank balladry. I felt rested, totally at one with the peace around me.
Then, suddenly, like a bat out of hell, a huge animal came charging at me!
I couldn’t at first make out what it was, but after a few moments...I could see the silhouette of either a bull or a bull-like cow. And it was heatedly rushing at me as if I was the bullfighter whose usually lethal sword-thrust somehow only injured it this time.
My adrenaline up-ticked like some imitation Nike sneakers.
I don’t know how the decision was made, but my legs suddenly started moving! I found myself sprinting for gold, and winning!
Sweat glistened and streamed down my face as I heard the thuds of that bovine creature gaining ground on me.
I didn’t realise whether anybody else was around. I just ran straight, like my life depended on it.
Then I took a right, so did it. I took a left, so did it! I took another right, then a left.
And it did exactly the same!
Pretty soon the animal and I were sliding; grooving left and right like two dancers as the evening breeze windily blushed at the spectacle.
This was not going to be my last dance partner in this life, I said to myself.
And just as inexplicably as the bull had appeared, it suddenly receded into the night. But I was still running, running...until the drumbeat of my heart quietened to give sound to the calm around me.
The next morning, I was fast asleep at home at 10am. As you know, I was still traumatised about the night before.
My mother woke me up to take a call.
It was my boss, addressing my absence in scorching terms.
“Where are you? If you are not here in 30 minutes; you’re fired!”
He then slammed the phone down and left me wandering how I would shower, brush my teeth, iron my clothing and polish my sneakers…oh wait, I couldn’t do that…and get from Makindye to Jinja Road in time.
Back then, there were no boda bodas…we only had guys riding bicycles so slowly that they moved like snails which had stopped! What to do, what to do???
I decided to miss the shower, wear un-ironed clothes and throw on some brown sneakers to hide the dirt. Then, hail a taxi to town.
When I reached town, I had to take another taxi going to Bweyogerere and then jump out at Jinja Road.
I would always hear people saying ‘maasawo’ to the conductor and the taxi would ride a little and drop them a little ahead. So when we reached the roundabout near the then Celtel offices, I said, in ridiculous Luganda, “Mass Hour.”
And to my complete surprise, the taxi stopped! Give or take, there was still half a kilometer to go and this taxi wasn’t about to drop me a little ahead.
I stayed put in my seat, looking confused. And nobody in the taxi talked as everyone looked at each other and at me as if it was high noon.
“Here’s your maasawo,” the conductor said with an arm showing the way to the pavement.
Grudgingly, I got out and then looked at my watch: I had seven minutes to go!
As soon as I started running, an arm grabbed me.I looked back angrily and saw my friend ‘Paulo.’
This guy always took his time, so that’s why we called him ‘Paulo Pole’ from Pole Pole – pronounced Polay Polay – which means slowly, slowly in Swahili.
“I got saved,” Paulo said as he took my hand and started speaking slowly about the turning point in his life.
“I’ve seen people healed of cancer due to God’s favour…” he declared.
Four minutes into his sermonette, I looked at my watch and with extreme agitation I asked: “Well, have you ever seen guys getting sacked?”
“Er, No,” Paulo answered, genuinely confused at the nasty twist God’s favour had taken.
“I will be sacked if I don’t reach office in a couple of minutes,” I screamed.
I released my hand from his lazy grip and started running fast, upwards and onwards, towards the office.
There was one minute to go when I started to cross the road and I was in striking distance of my office!
I was going to make it! I crossed the road and wham! I was hit by the first boda boda I had ever seen in Kampala!